VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte mistakes UN court for ICC

President Rodrigo Duterte erred in claiming he has a pending case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN) – brought about by his government’s war on drugs.


In his speech during the thanksgiving dinner for his former aide and now senator-elect Christopher “Bong” Go in Davao City, May 24, Duterte sang his own praises about achievements as the country’s chief executive. On the drug problem, he said:


“Sabi ko ang droga hihiritan ko talaga kayo. Kaya ako nagkakaso sa International Court of Justice. Maniwala kayong mga buang ‘yan. Ako paharapin mo ako sa puti? Leche kayo. Who are you to judge me?

(I said I’d hit those doing drugs. That’s why I have a case before the ICJ. Don’t believe them, they’re crazy. Me, answer to caucasians?)”

Source: PCOO, Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte during the thanksgiving dinner in Davao, May 24, 2019, watch from 1:00:57 to 1:01:21


Duterte has no pending case with the ICJ. But there is an ongoing preliminary inquiry by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the government’s war on drugs.

Established in June 1945, the ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the UN. It serves two functions:

  • To settle legal disputes between States, in accordance with international law; and
  • To provide advisory opinions on legal matters referred by authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.

The ICJ has “no jurisdiction to try individuals accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity.” The ICJ further clarifies on its website that “as it is not a criminal court, it does not have a prosecutor able to initiate proceedings.”

The ICC in February 2018 launched a preliminary examination on the government’s war on drugs, specifically on the alleged “extra-judicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations.”

Established in 1998 by the Rome Statute, the ICC is an independent body that investigates, prosecutes and tries individuals accused of committing the “gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.”

As of March 17, the Philippines is officially no longer a party to the ICC. The government withdrew from the court in March last year, shortly after the ICC announced it is initiating the preliminary inquiry.

In 2017, Duterte mistakenly cited the ICJ as the judicial body that ruled in favor of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea dispute against China. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Which court ruled on the West Philippine Sea dispute?)




Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte during the thanksgiving dinner in Davao, May 24, 2019

International Court of Justice, The Court

International Court of Justice, Frequently Asked Questions

International Criminal Court, Philippines

International Criminal Court, Understanding the International Criminal Court

International Criminal Court, About

International Criminal Court, ICC Statement on The Philippines’ notice of withdrawal: State participation in Rome Statute system essential to international rule of law, March 20, 2018


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)